Bad medicine

by The West Virginia Record |
Nov. 17, 2006, 10:23am

We'll save Sen. Dan Foster and the Charleston Gazette editorial board the suspense.

The "Pharmaceutical Cost Management Council" they so adore will never, ever lower drug costs for West Virginians. To the contrary, if it ever gets aggressive like they so hope, its meddling will have precisely the opposite effect. We mean higher drug prices across our state.

Don't let the words "cost management" fool you.

It is true that all Americans pay more for drugs these days than they did 10 or 20 years ago. We also pay more for communications services for the same exact reason. Need.

Cable and phone company innovation bore new "needs" we never knew we had -- for high-speed web access, cell phones and hundreds of cable channels. Drug makers took the same path with often life-saving results. They added real, new value we desperately wanted, and we're paying for it. Justly.

This particular three-year old big government folly, invented to create a new layer of Mountain State regulation so as to ensure drug marketing isn't too lavish, has made headlines recently for its ineffectiveness. Its creators and benefactors, keen on attacking drug makers whenever and however for own political interests, are now scurrying to give the council some oomph and teeth.

That includes House Speaker Bob Kiss and Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who took steps last summer to fortify the council's legal authority, praying it will serve as a source of leads for his fee-hungry attack dog "special assistant attorneys general."

Their collective hope: inspire an aggressive group of consumer-investigators keen on uncovering "insidious" sales tactics to doctors.

So what comes next? More McGraw lawsuits. More loud anti-Pharma headlines. More populist demonization of drug makers. And a worse drug market for consumers -- one with higher costs and less choice. Believe it.

You wouldn't support an "Automobile Cost Management Council" or one for homes or food or energy. Drugs are no different. Prices fall with competition -- nothing more, nothing less.

There's a word to describe folks who believe raising risks and costs for a business will lower its prices, and it isn't "hopeful." If we make the Mercks and Pfizers of the world jump through needless hoops to serve West Virginia consumers, they will adjust their behavior accordingly, no matter what some state senator demands.

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